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Re: Cost of the Journal of Molecular Structure & others Albert Henderson 14 Dec 1999 12:13 UTC

on Mon, 13 Dec 1999 Simone JEROME <sjerome@ULG.AC.BE> wrote:

> > A 08:52 13/12/99 -0500, Albert Henderson a �crit :

> >In contrast I believe that E-Biomed represented a major threat
> >to libraries, librarians, librarianship, and the professional
> >information scientists who produce disciplinary database
> >services such as Medline, Biosis, Agricola, etc. I urge you
> >to look at the historical trend: downsizing for financial
> >gain and at the expense of the priority of knowledge. The
> >aim of administrators seems to shift dissemination spending
> >to various sorts of technology and eliminate the labor
> >and overhead of libraries and classrooms.
> Again, Mr Henderson, I cannot agree. PubMed Central is no threat
> for libraries and librarians, only for librarians who are
> so old-fashioned as to conceive their job as the mere accumulation
> of paper. Active librarians are now more useful than ever. In the future,
> they will be more engaged in education activities. Information
> retrieval will be their most important mission with the accumulation
> of materials and sources, some of which are pure commercial
> stuff with very low scientific contents. It is most important
> that young students and scientists are able to distinguish
> between scientific information and commercial propanganda.

Look again. Financial support for major libraries kept pace
with R&D during the 1960s and certainly for several hundred
years before, according to Derek de Solla Price. (SCIENCE
SINCE BABYLON. Yale Univ. Press. 1975. p. 173) Since 1970
it has grown half the rate of R&D. The impoverishment of
libraries has not only decimated collections, it cast a dark
shadow over the professional opportunities for science
librarians and other specialists in research information.

I agree with the need for librarians and other information
professionals in this "Information Age." The research
literature produced by increased R&D doubles every 15 years
on average. That is the greatest challenge to research
productivity. Identifying relevant, reliable findings,
classifying and evaluating them, and creating synthesis is
extremely valuable to researchers. The managers seem to
believe all such dissemination should be replaced by automation.
It is ridiculous, of course. Machines can not classify as a
human does. They can 'spell check' but not intelligently.
They can locate keywords but not newly coined buzzwords.

I believe I was not the only person to experience a sense of
shock and disbelief when Columbia University announced the
closing of its library school. For a 'we come not to praise'
speech from the administrative point of view you may wish to
read J.R. Cole "Balancing acts: dilemmas of choice facing
research universities. (THE RESEARCH UNIVERSITY IN A TIME OF
DISCONTENT. Johns Hopkins U.P. 1994) He argues, "academic
priorities that juxatposed the cost of maintaining and enhancing
a preeminent school against ... the necessity to invest in
other new programs." This is his euphemism for saying the
library school was not as profitable as sponsored research.
It is true, particularly since NSF killed research into
dissemination in the mid-1970s and since major universities
killed library growth.

You may also be amazed to find that book of essays, with the
"discontent" in its title, says practically nothing about the
state of libraries other than Donald Kennedy's half-thought:

        "Most recently, the system of indirect cost
        reimbursement has been brought under intense
        political attack, nominally for alleged abuses
        at Stanford University and elsewhere. A result
        of this scrutiny and the accompanying rhetoric
        has been to strengthen the public's perception
        that the 'real' costs are program costs, and
        the buildings, equipment, and the administrative
        maintenance of the system are simply 'extras.' As
        a consequence, science laboratories and libraries
        are in bad shape, and are steadily getting worse."

Notably, Kennedy says nothing of Stanford's practice, under
Kennedy's watch, of cancelling thousands of dollars worth of
science journal subscriptions while posting research 'overhead'
reimbursements to the yacht, a shopping center, flowers and
other spending clearly unconnected with research. Stanford
eventually was forced to refund millions to the Fed. No one
in an official capacity presented a case for using that
overhead to maintain the library's service quality.

> >E-Biomed had the seductive attraction of being offered for
> >"free," as in "free lunch." There is no such thing as "free."
> >Like photocopying,
> Not at all, Mr Henderson. I did the first steps of my PhD
> when no copier was available and I remember what relief
> it was to know of the existence of one at our law library.
> At that time, there were few commercial journals but they
> flourished when copiers were available and served the dissemination
> of knowledge. That's a dogma to say that copiers are killing
> the scientific periodicals industry but I should be glad to
> see figures. It does not match what I actually know.

I don't say the photocopier was not received as a miracle from
heaven by users, including yours truly. Unfortunately your
management cut library spending as soon as they figured
that interlibrary loans could legally substitute for subscriptions.
The financial figures are very clear as I point out in JASIS
50:366-379. 1999. More figures are in a forthcoming article,
showing higher education profits increased in the same amount
that library spending decreased. Administrative spending
statistics, by the way, show no sign of slowed growth.

Thanks for commenting.

Albert Henderson